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Literary Giants Book Club

Literary Giants: All the King's Men

Date: 
Monday, August 25, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Robert Penn Warren
Title: 
All the King's Men

The rise and fall of Willie Stark, a southern political boss, graphically told by his right-hand man, Jack Burden, an idealist and a cynic. Willie rises from a decoy candidate, who sincerely wants to help the people of the state, to a successful governor who admits that a little graft is necessary to make the wheels go round and that every man has his price, until he is shot down by the outraged brother of his mistress..... a vital, compelling narrative. (Club Rating: 6.7) Read more about Literary Giants: All the King's Men

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Literary Giants: Nickel and Dimed

Date: 
Monday, September 29, 2003 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Barbara Ehrenreich
Title: 
Nickel and Dimed

Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity�a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor. (Club Rating: 6.8) Read more about Literary Giants: Nickel and Dimed

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Literary Giants: Empire Falls

Date: 
Monday, October 27, 2003 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Richard Russo
Title: 
Empire Falls

"Elijah Whiting...had not succeeded in killing his wife with a shovel, nor had he recovered from the disappointment." These lines from the prolog of Russo's (Straight Man) latest novel prove prototypical. A keen observer of human nature, Russo explores the tragicomic realities of life in a small mill town in central Maine whose best days are behind. Miles Roby is a basically decent guy who runs the Empire Grill for the widow of the last Whiting male (who shot himself when he, too, couldn't recover from his failure to dispatch his wife). Miles's own wife has left him for a sleazy gym owner, and his angst-ridden teenage daughter has befriended a sullen, ominously silent classmate shunned by the rest of his peers. Meanwhile, his ne'er-do-well father is in the process of trying to con a senile old priest into financing his annual jaunt to Key West. As the world careens around him and his fellow townfolk, Miles is trying desperately to figure out what went wrong and the answers, both complicated and simple, seem to lie mostly in the house across the river in which Mrs. Whiting resides. Russo has constructed a sensitive, endearingly oddball portrait of small-town life, a wonderful story that should appeal to a wide audience. (Club Rating: 5.7) Read more about Literary Giants: Empire Falls

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Literary Giants: Bel Canto

Date: 
Monday, November 24, 2003 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Ann Patchett
Title: 
Bel Canto

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped. (Club Rating: 8.6) Read more about Literary Giants: Bel Canto

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Literary Giants: Hell at the Breech

Date: 
Monday, January 5, 2004 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Tom Franklin
Title: 
Hell at the Breech

In 1897, in the rural southwestern area of Alabama known as Mitcham Beat, an aspiring politician is mysteiously murdered. Seeking retribution, his outraged friends - mostly poor cotton farmers - form a secret society, Hell-at-the-Breech, to punish the townspeople they believe are responsible. The hooded members of this gang wage a bloody year-long campaign of terror that culminates in a massacre, where the innocent suffer alongside the guilty. Caught in the maelstrom of the Mitcham War are four people: the county's aging sheriff, sympathetic to both sides; the widowed midwife who delivered nearly every member of Hell-at-the-Breech; a ruthless detective who wages his own private war against the gang; and a young store clerk harboring a terrible secret. (Club Rating: 9) Read more about Literary Giants: Hell at the Breech

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Literary Giants: When Good Men Do Nothing

Date: 
Sunday, January 25, 2004 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Alan Grady
Title: 
When Good Men Do Nothing

During the 1940s and '50s, Phenix City, located in Alabama just across the state line from Columbus, Georgia, was considered to be "the most corrupt city in America." Known as "Sin City," the town's economy was based on prostitution, gambling, and bootlegging. In June of 1954, a time of great change in the state, Albert Patterson, the Democratic Party's Nominee for state attorney general, was assassinated as he was leaving his law office in Phenix City. Making the cleaning up of Phenix City his primary campaign promise had not endeared him to locals. Illegal income had become a way of life for politicians and businessmen in the area and no one wanted to see the status quo changed. Alan Grady has researched his topic thoroughly. Using the transcripts from the state's murder case, Patterson's private papers, National Guard reports, files from the Office of the Alabama Attorney General, and case files as well as interviews, the author has reconstructed the events surrounding Patterson's death. (Pam Kingsbury) Read more about Literary Giants: When Good Men Do Nothing

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Literary Giants: The Bluest Eye

Date: 
Monday, February 23, 2004 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Toni Morrison
Title: 
The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove -- a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others -- who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy of its fulfillment. Read more about Literary Giants: The Bluest Eye

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Literary Giants: A Bend in the River

Date: 
Monday, March 29, 2004 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
V. S. Naipaul
Title: 
A Bend in the River

V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man -- an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions. Read more about Literary Giants: A Bend in the River

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Literary Giants: Saving Grace

Date: 
Monday, April 26, 2004 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Lee Smith
Title: 
Saving Grace

Florida Grace Shepard, named for the state in which she was born and for the grace of God, is the daughter of a charismatic serpent-handling preacher. She is content with her early life in Scrabble Creek, North Carolina -- no easy task when her family moves whenever her father is arrested for conducting services with live snakes. With Southern style, Smith takes Grace from a young girl struggling with her own identity, though marriage, motherhood, and an adulterous affair that changes her very way of life. Readers go along on a journey of wonders, miracles, and tragedy with all the people Grace meets. This is not a tale of adventure but rather of Southern life and spiritual searching. Read more about Literary Giants: Saving Grace

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Literary Giants: Profiles in Courage

Date: 
Monday, May 24, 2004 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
John F. Kennedy
Title: 
Profiles in Courage

In 1954-55 a freshman U.S. Senator from Massachusetts wrote a book profiling eight of his historical Senatorial colleagues, such men as John Quincy Adams, Sam Houston, and Robert A. Taft. Instead of focusing on their storied careers, John F. Kennedy chose to illustrate their acts of integrity, when they stood alone against tremendous political and social pressure for what they felt was right. Read more about Literary Giants: Profiles in Courage

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